Server colocation is the act of hosting your servers in a data centre. Your servers will be hosted securely and separately but alongside the servers of the data centre’s other customers, hence the name server colocation. It has the potential to be a valuable step on your digital transformation journey, upgrading your IT’s resiliency, flexibility and security while reducing cost and internal IT resource pressures.
Where is server colocation housed?
A data centre is where server colocation takes place. They are purpose-built buildings designed to be the ideal environment for hosting IT equipment. The specialist infrastructure in a data centre is what makes it so perfect to host servers:
- Power – UPSs (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) and backup generators are in place to keep servers powered up, even when there is a mains failure, to avoid downtime for those using server colocation.
- Network – High bandwidth fibre will be available in the data centre, with geographically diverse lines connecting to the wider network. This also prevents downtime since a fibre line being physically severed won’t disconnect the servers in the data centre from the internet.
- Cooling – Specialist cooling systems will cool servers collocated in the data centre to avoid overheating which can damage equipment or cause a fire risk.
- Security – Physical security (CCTV, locked doors, etc.) and a strict access policy will protect servers and the data stored on them from being physically accessed by anyone without permission.
Green data centres – The very best server colocation providers will have designed their infrastructure to limit their environmental impact, using energy-efficient cooling systems, power redundancy systems that don’t waste energy, and techniques to generally reduce energy usage in the data centre.
Why would you opt for server colocation?
The service of colocation is an opportunity for companies to significantly upgrade their IT compared to operating an on-premise server room in their office, or whatever their existing IT system is. There are five key benefits to upgrading your IT to colocation:
- Resiliency – Thanks to the resilient power, cooling and network infrastructure in a data centre, your downtime will be reduced (if not totally eliminated). And your server colocation provider should offer you SLA promising 99.999% uptime.
- Flexibility – Migrating to server colocation won’t be the final step of your digital transformation and being in a data centre can make future growth a lot easier. A data centre will have capacity for you to add in any number of additional servers to grow your system or provide you with integrated cloud services to create a hybrid IT system.
- Security – The physical security of a data centre will protect your servers, and they will be able to offer you a comprehensive suite of cyber security solutions so that you don’t have to worry about attacks downing your system or stealing your data.
- Reduced responsibilities – If your IT team no longer have to deal with infrastructure maintenance or security then they can focus on advancing your company’s digital capabilities.
- Reduced costs – While server colocation will require a regular fee, you will no longer have to pay any of the power costs or other expenses from running your on-premises server room. There’s also significant value attached to the increased uptime since downtime impacts productivity significantly, and you’re less likely to need to hire new IT staff thanks to the reduced responsibilities.
Why not just use the cloud?
A lot of companies have the cloud as the final aim for their digital transformation, however a company might need to upgrade their IT but aren’t ready for a full cloud migration, or the cloud isn’t the best long-term solution for them. Server colocation has several benefits over cloud services:
- If you have a legacy system that can’t be virtualised easily, you can continue using it without overhauling or rearchitecting anything.
- Colocation allows you to use your own servers and design your security protocols, rather than relying on the security of your cloud provider, essential for security-focussed sectors like banking and healthcare.
- It can be difficult to know exactly where your data is being physically stored with cloud services, but GDPR and other security regulations require you to know where any personal data is stored.
Moving your servers to a colocation data centre doesn’t mean you’re cutting yourself off from the cloud forever. You could still migrate to the cloud further on down the line. Or, instead of a full migration, adopt a highly flexible cloud system and integrate it with your more secure colocation IT to create a hybrid IT system.
How do you purchase server colocation?
The data centre you work with will have several options for your server colocation services which you will need to choose between. It's a bit of a balancing act to decide what you need for server colocation, but your colocation provider will help you, and getting it right means you've got a system with enough capacity for your IT, built in resiliency and it's still within budget.
The factors to choose between are:
- Rack size - Data centres will offers quarter, half, and full server racks for colocation. You need to identify how much hardware you're hosting and which size of rack would be the best fit for you.
- Network capacity - Since your IT will now be hosted in the data centre, it needs a network connection capable of keeping your company connected. If needed a data centre can provide a speed of 100Gbps, but you need to identify which speed you need without spending too much.
- Other services - Server colocation can be supported by a range of other services, including remote hands, cyber security solutions, and off-site backups. You need to decide which of these other services you need to create a reliable IT system.
How to find the best server colocation data centre?
There are a lot of factors for choosing a data centre, and every business has different requirements so it's not a one-size-fits-all situation. But when choosing a server colocation data centre you need to weigh up the colocation services themselves (outlined in the section above), and the situation of the data centre itself, including:
- Its location, both the distance from your office and the area it's based since location will impact the cost of your services.
- How physically secure the data centre is, since you don't want anyone unauthorised accessing your servers.
- The redundancy systems the data centre has, since these are what will keep your servers online.
- How environmentally friendly the data centre is, as this is how environmentally friendly your server colocation services are.